By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University softball team opened the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament with a well-rounded performance.
The fourth-seeded Bears once again got a solid pitching outing from sophomore Natalie Sorrenti of Bridgewater, had the offense jump-started with a three-run, first-inning homer by Rebecca Uschmann and made no errors on defense.
That all added up to a 9-1 victory over fifth-seeded Salem State University Wednesday afternoon at Alumni Park in a game that was halted in the fifth inning because of the mercy rule.
The Bears (18-17) have advanced into the double-elimination portion of the tourney and will play Thursday night at top-seeded Worcester State University (22-9) at 6 with another game on Saturday.
“I told my kids that if we are firing on all cylinders, then we can beat anyone,″ said first-year BSU coach Lindsey Couturier. “Natalie was hitting her spots, Rebecca came up with a big hit. I think it was an outstanding way to start, going five innings and playing the way we did.″
The Bears had enough runs to win in the bottom of the first inning when Uschmann (2 for 2) delivered his first career homer, which hit the top of the scoreboard in left field. The blast came after Meghan Navarro of Taunton walked and Shannon Grindle of Halifax doubled to left-center field.
“She didn’t play much last year and she wasn’t very confident early,″ said Couturier of her cleanup hitter. “I was working with her swing early and she was the DP, but she wasn’t having quality at-bats. Then the last five or six doubleheaders, she really starting seeing the ball.″
While Sorrenti (9-2) allowed only a fourth-inning run, BSU increased the lead to 5-1 in the fourth with Alexandra Ruprecht of Kingston scoring on an error and Tabitha Domeij came home on a Navarro single.
The Bears wrapped up the game in the fifth with four runs, the first scoring on a throwing error, Ruprecht delivering a sacrifice fly to make it 7-1, a groundout scored Jenny Heller and another error brought in the final run.
Sorrenti, a Bridgwater-Raynham graduate who joined the team in April, allowed only four hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
“She has been a game changer for us,″ said Couturier. “Natalie hits every single spot you tell her to. We do the scouting and Natalie can hit her spots and there’s nothing they can do with it.″
BSU dropped a doubleheader to Worcester State on April 22, losing by scores of 8-3 and 14-3.
“I think it’s a real confidence booster for us the way we played today,″ said Couturier.
The BSU-Worcester State winner plays Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with the loser playing an elimination game at 11 a.m. that day.